Olfactoria’s Travels was one of the perfume blogs I was always instinctively attracted to. There was humour; there was intimacy, and there was immediate, and beautiful writing. And the writer, a person I knew nothing about, named Birgit from Vienna, was not even writing in her first language (which I always found SICKENING, because to be honest, although I can ‘speak’ some foreign languages, myself, I will never even come close to being able to express myself so naturally, and so exquisitely, in any foreign tongue the way that she so effortlessly does; nowhere near).
When I started The Black Narcissus, and no one was reading it, and I was somewhat despondent, as I couldn’t quite see the point in continuing it otherwise, because in that case you are just addressing a void, for some reason I intuitively one night decided to write to this mysterious woman in the land of Freud before I contacted anybody else, and asked her ( rather desperately, and dramatically, I have to say), for advice. She responded immediately, and very sweetly, suggested I do some guest posts for her (and I did, a whole Vanilla Series), and as a result, I started to finally receive some visitors on the blog (and before you know it was invited to do the Perfume Lovers London talk on vanilla, a still from which you can see here in this picture taken two summers ago, if I am correct, though it feels more in truth like it was a lifetime).
We met; we looked each other in the eye, and it was, I have to say, a bit like Vertigo. I was somewhat awed, even quite bashful, that she had come all the way from Vienna just to meet me (and had decided to give me a vintage Shalimar extrait as a ‘souvenir’); that she was so self-deprecating, while contradictorily bathing all the same in her own inimitable golden glow. In the pub around the corner afterwards, where I think I bought her some prosecco or something sparkling (though I could of course be quite wrong as there had been gin, and beers and the whole thing was getting rather boozy during the evening beforehand), I know that we were talking about psychology, and perfume and various other aspects of our lives, both quite strangely intimately dark and light; there was a depth (and dare I say it, Birgit, even almost mystical – for such a brief encounter – connection). Of course I was projecting my own Hitchcock Blonde obsessions onto you, probably (no: definitely), but I do have to say that I felt that you had a presence that can only truly be described as shimmering. So dignified, and Mysterious. A touch sad, perhaps. Gilded; intelligent; and beautiful.
This is a picture of us both here, meeting for the first time. At the end of the evening, a I began to properly recover from my nerves ( I had been hySTERICAL, as anyone who was there will gladly testify) and when I was able to finally enjoy and gloat in the truly pleasurable feeling of recovering from the trauma of my first dose of real public speaking; meeting new friends; bonding over scent, and truly delighting in the late summer London moment. In this photograph here I was definitely properly starting to unwind a little. We had just met. But I definitely felt that there was some connection.
Birgit, thank you for everything, and the very best of luck for the future.
And if I am ever in Vienna, I hope that we can go out for coffee and Viennese swirls; spray the perfumes at Hermes; and continue our conversations in some wintry, dream-laden, statued; snow laced; and out-of-the-way city park.